Do I have legal rights my employer’s offer lettermentioned payment of a bonus but after I started they refused to pay the bonus?

UPDATED: Nov 9, 2010

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Do I have legal rights my employer’s offer lettermentioned payment of a bonus but after I started they refused to pay the bonus?

When I was hired by my employer, the offer letter contained a bonus payment. After I started they refused to pay the bonus claiming that it was a clerical mistake. I did received an email message from HR right after I started, confirming that I would get the bonus (I started on 01/08. However, I no longer have the e-mail (internet account closed). I know from server backups that my employer has access to that information; it may help my case. I do have the offer letter signed by me and personnel with the offer that I would received the 2007 bonus.

Asked on November 9, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, Massachusetts


MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

You may wish to consider the pros and cons of this matter.  In many states, employment is at will and an employer while they cannot fire you as retaliation can fire you with or without cause.  You have a unique situation because your offer letter was signed by both you and the company's representative.  If it was a clerical error, the human resources administrator should have sent you some sort of amended letter for you to sign.  Clearly, this did not happen and it simply appears the company tried to lure you in with false payment. Go ahead and review the cover letter again to make sure you are correct and consult with your state's department of labor about your next steps.  If you have been there for so long (since 2007), an issue that may work against you is the fact that you waited so long.  You actually may be statutorily precluded from claiming those monies. 

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